Why Bears will play Justin Fields vs. Jets if QB's healthy enough to go

Why Bears will play Fields vs. Jets if QB is healthy enough to go originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago

LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- You'd think the decision might be obvious for the Bears. Justin Fields has a separated left shoulder and torn ligaments, the second-year quarterback confirmed Wednesday. The Bears 3-8, have a bad offensive line, and are about to face a New York Jets team that leads the NFL in pressure rate.

Sounds like a good time to sit and rest the 23-year-old face of your franchise, no?

None of that appears to have entered into the calculus for the Bears this week. Fields is cleared to practice and is listed as day-to-day. The Bears had a walk-through on Wednesday in which Fields' participation was estimated as limited. And yet, if Fields is cleared by the medical staff and feels like he can play Sunday, he will play.

“I would just say that if he’s ready to play, he’s going to play," head coach Matt Eberflus said. "He feels that way, we feel that way. If he’s ready to go, feels good about it, he’s going to play the game. Really, the reason is because we’re trying to win. We want to win the game. There’s a lot of great things to getting the experience of playing a game, every single game we can. That’s an important part to this season.”

Eberflus said Fields has to be "full-go" to play. If the quarterback is limited in what he can do, he will not play. That, of course, is subject to interpretation.

There are several factors that go into any injured player being cleared to play, from pain tolerance to risk of re-aggravation.

"I think whenever you hurt something, you always have a chance to re-aggravate it, you know," Eberflus said. "It could be, you know, an ankle, a knee, or whatever it might be. That’s part of the game."

"If I have an injury on something, can I tolerate the pain with it and then move forward and function as a quarterback?" Eberflus said later. "I think that's with any injury. It could be a shoulder. It could be a mild sprain to the ankle, or wherever that might be."

The Bears ramp up Fields on Thursday and Friday. If he is moving well, operating the offense at a normal rate, and feels good, then he will play.

In order for Fields to play, he must be cleared by the medical staff, give the OK himself, and then the coaching staff must sign off. Eberflus admitted he and general manager Ryan Poles sometimes disagree on whether or not to play a player dealing with an injury. Those decisions are made as a group after discussion.

"I would say really that we have disagreements like that sometimes and we would just have to put our heads together and make a common-sense decision on that, which is a lot of things," Eberflus said. "When we make decisions on certain things like we did with Teven [Jenkins] last week — he’s got to make the thing as for the best for the player and where the player feels he is performance-wise."

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Over the past five weeks, Fields has solidified himself as the future of the Bears' franchise. His long-term health is more valuable than a Week 12 game in Year 0 of a rebuilding project. But game reps are also extremely valuable for Fields' development as an NFL quarterback.

The Bears will have to weigh a lot of things when deciding if Fields will play Sunday. They know how competitive he is and that he will want to give it a go Sunday. They also know they can't risk further injury.

"I would just say that if we ever feel that a player is going to go out there and harm himself, obviously, we’re gonna err on the side of caution for sure," Eberflus said. "You know what I mean? We’re not gonna put a guy out there in harm's way, and he doesn’t feel good about it for sure. We want to do what’s best for the organization but also what’s best for the player."

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